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Four Plays by Aristophanes: The Birds; The Clouds; The Frogs; Lysistrata (Meridian classics)

Four Plays: The Clouds / The Birds / Lysistrata / The Frogs - Aristophanes, William Arrowsmith, Richmond Lattimore, Douglass Parker NOTE: THIS BOOK CONTAINS FOUR PLAYS, BUT THIS REVIEW ONLY PERTAINS TO The Birds.WARNING: I guess I was in a mood, and this review got .gif-tastic, for some reason. If you hate that (as I do), then here's you chance to just skip it, by not clicking below.It kills me to say it, but this was the least fun of the three plays I've read by Aristophanes. That's too bad, because birds are a whole hell of a lot of fun, so my expectations were pretty high. It's like, you know how much fun it is to dress your bird up like a bee?Well that's how much fun I thought this play was going to be... but no luck. Most of the humor was more slapstick.So how best to describe it? Mmmmmmmmm- that's a difficult question. It's about the birds of Athens, as well as some people who have been turned into birds, getting together to form their own country in the sky, called "Cloudcukooland".My favorite is Epops. He was once a king, but he angered the gods, by sleeping with his sister-in-law, so they turned him into a Hoopoe bird. (He never does say whether it was worth it.)So... Cloudcuckooland... it's one of those places like Oz...or Wonderland......or a store in Lymington, England...where social conventions are questioned or turned on their head. In Cloudcukooland, birds are superior not only to men, but to gods as well. The birds decide to erect a toll, so that the gods cannot descend from Mt Olympus to the land of mortals, without paying the birds. Likewise, the sacrifices of men cannot float up to the gods. Soon, the gods- hungry for sacrifices, send a deligation to negotiate with the birds, seeking the bird king Koryphaios- a wren.YEAH! YOU HEARD ME!! THE KING OF THE BIRDS IS A WREN!!!WTF??? A wren? A FUCKING WREN?!!?!Don't get me wrong; wrens are fine, but "King of the Birds"? Hello? Bald eagle, I could understand. Trumpeter swan, I would be agreeable to. Personally, Snowy Owl gets my vote, but I'm not trying to make a thing out of it, here.Anyhow, the wren. That part was bullshit.Mostly, the premise was a setup for a bunch of bird-related puns, and I'd be a hypocrite of the first order if I didn't admit them's always good for laffs. Naturally- this being Aristophanes- there were also a bunch of dick jokes, and... you guessed it: bird-pun-based-dick-jokes:Koryphaios: Where's Captain Cock? Did he fill out your form and punch your ticket?Unnamed daughter of Zeus: Such dirty talk! Unthinkable!AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!Here's another one:Pisthetairos: "Everywhere I look, I see peckers...of seeds!"Heee.Also weird is the story of the bird so old that when he died, there was nowhere to bury him, because the Earth hadn't been created yet. That's kind of like a dumb "Yo' Momma" joke. So where did the older-than-the-earth bird get burried? Under his daughter's tail, of course.As with The Clouds and Lysistrata, Aristophanes wrote this play as part of a writing competition. True to form, he breaks the fourth wall and begs the judges to award him first place again. The first time I read that- in The Clouds, I thought it was pretty ballsy and funny. The second time around, it was kind of annoying, except the birds threaten the judges to visit avian destruction on Athens, if The Birds isn't awarded first place. I've got to wonder whether this image planted the seed of inspiration for Alfred Hitchcock's 1963 film, also titled The Birds(that's Melanie Griffith's mom, btw)Here's another possible modern culture tie-in: some of the birds here taunt each other, calling each other "lazy bird". It's a weird phrase, because usually birds are pretty animated. I've never met a bird yet who struck me as lazy. The only time I've ever heard the phrase "lazy bird" is in the title of a John Coltrane song.Now I wonder whether Coltrane was making an Aristophanes reference.In the end, the whole toll between gods and men is resolved in an agreement where the gods and birds kind of decide to co-rule over men. As part of the agreement, Koryphaios gets to marry Miss Universe!The translator may have taken some liberties there. Anyhow, it ends with Koryphaios flying Miss Universe up to his castle in Cloudcuckooland for the honeymoon. Lucky girl.